(This article first appeared in the October 11, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
(those are her handbags)
& mutual friend, artist Kevin Berlin (holding up my article in Luxury Living Magazine)
It was another gorgeous, warm, sunny day in Westhampton Beach. Main Street was alive with beachgoers, shoppers, and residents strolling through town. I was on my way to meet Kasia Dietz, Westhampton native turned Parisian handbag designer. At an outside table at Beach Bakery Café, there she sat in a white dress, picturesque like the season. After being connected through famed artist Kevin Berlin, who used Dietz as a model in one of his paintings, I came to learn of her many travels which inspired a successful business.
“I started my bag business [in Paris], which I did a bit on the side in New York. And then I started designing,” Dietz, who lived in New York City for 12 years, explained. With labels made in Paris, her prints are from Holland. Each bag is reversible, fun, and funky- and they fold up!
“The beauty of the bags is that they’re really good for traveling.” Fittingly so, as Dietz finds inspiration through countless countries.
After quitting her job in advertising, Dietz visited 32 countries in 13 months in 2006. “I’m always inspired by the tiles in Spain or the colors in Italy.” Her visit to the Andalusian region of Spain, the southern part of the country, created prints like the Cordoba, Granada, and Seville. Drinking our coffees, we swapped stories about the streets in Old Marbella; artistic pathways throughout a historic city with an enriched culture.
However, it was love that galvanized a permanent move to Paris. Upon meeting her now husband on the streets in SoHo over eight years ago, it took a mere five months for an Italian man to convince an American woman to go on a lifelong adventure. “Coming from New York you have that kind of ‘I can do anything’ attitude. I love Paris, it’s an amazing city.”
Walking along the Seine river has become a source of insight for Dietz, sitting alongside the water with paper and pencil during the warmer months. The city of love and lights reveals itself in its evolving neighborhood of the North Marais, awakening her creativity.
With small collections ranging 15 to 25 pieces each, her bags are comparable to art work, “they sell out and then they’re gone.” Having just launched her new Downtown collection, reminiscent of the colors and energy of downtown New York City, Dietz maintains that she is “forever a New Yorker.” Abroad, Dietz collaborated on limited edition shirts with Parisian boutique Aoshida, expanding her line from bags to clothing.
Kenya will be the inspiration behind an upcoming collection, where a portion of the proceeds from sales will go toward saving the elephants in the region. For 2018, fashion lovers can expect more larger totes in stock in addition to expanding her hand-painted collections, incorporating leather as well.
In a world that remains a constant source of creative enrichment, Kasia Dietz follows a “live mindfully and follow your heart” lifestyle. From the beaches of Westhampton, to the streets of New York City and the lights of Paris, this designer is evolving as quickly as the pathway that takes her there.
You can purchase your own Kasia Dietz handbag on the East End at Hope Around the World located at 124 Main Street in Westhampton. Or shop online at http://www.KasiaDietz.com.
(This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Luxury Living Magazine- a subdivision of Newsday Media Group)
“Be unrealistic,” world-renowned artist Kevin Berlin declared over the phone, as he finished his coffee. “Realize your dreams now. Don’t wait for a realistic moment. That’s something I aim for a lot these days.”
From the Renaissance influence of Florence in all its glory to the stability of Southampton, Berlin splits his time working from the two cities. He admits, “Southampton is one of the few places in the world where you can be in one spot and bump into some of your favorite, most loved people in the world, and they just happen to be there.”
The American artist, best known for his black and white paintings of cocktail party scenes, also excels in sculpture and performance art. Anyone who may have had the opportunity to attend opening night for Art Southampton Summer of 2016 will recall Berlin’s unmistakable presence, as he made his entrance with several women clad in black bikinis, the lot of them wearing top hats. In true Hamptons fashion, Berlin certainly knows how to grab the attention of a crowd to launch his newest endeavor.
Berlin’s captivation with top hats started at 18 years of age, upon being gifted a top hat by his parents at his first solo show at Bonwit Teller & Co. He chuckled, “I have no idea why; they just knew their kid, I guess.”
Since then, his fashion company, Kevin Berlin New York, has accidentally reinvented the classic piece for everyday use, “like jeans that already have holes in them…coming to a really nice shop near you, hopefully soon.” A TEMPTING VIEWPOINT
“We all have a powerful, beautiful force…something inside of us that’s beautiful, that can be hard to control,” Berlin roared.
For the Yale University and Slade School of Fine Art alumnus, temptation and desire are the quintessential themes behind his work, as he “usually tells stories about things that motivate people.”
Berlin gushes, “I love Nutella, and I find that I’m not alone in this world. It’s one of the few images I’ve worked with that people really identify very quickly…if you want to create a moment of joy, an image of Nutella will do exactly that. There aren’t many things you can paint that will have such an immediate positive reaction.”
Delicious cravings aside, Berlin is fascinated by worlds often closed to society, such as that of ballerinas. Once upon a time, his curiosity led him to Russia, and he remained for almost a year backstage with the Kirov Ballet in Saint Petersburg. Observing more than 100 of the “beautiful Olympic-level athletes telling stories” in the same legendary theatre where Tchaikovsky first wrote and presented Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. In another chapter of his life, he moved to Ukraine to study the life of the national circus in Kiev. From this experience, his “Save the Tigers” series was produced, shown in galleries in Miami, London and Southampton. Developed to bring awareness to the extinction of the animal, Berlin enjoyed the primal instinct that resonates from within. AMBIGUOUS ADMIRATION
“The importance of the paintings, at least for me, is that I never tell you what to think or tell you how to feel.”
Berlin has become a master of narrative art, with an aim to constantly engage his audience over time. His work has been collected by the likes of Kim Basinger, Luciano Pavarotti, Quincy Jones, David Letterman, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, among others.
Pointing out, “You can look at it today, you can look at it a hundred years from now, and you’ll still have a chance to add your own interpretation to it…as you change, your interpretation of the painting will change.”
As an unstoppable creative force, Berlin retraced the past two years of his life back to Russia for “The End of the World” series, depicting the secret life of ballerinas. Upcoming will be his latest program, “Berlin in Berlin,” a fitting title, evoking the German city where the artist spent time exploring the unknown. The solo show, running May 28th – July 15th, is being featured at Livingstone Gallery in the Netherlands.
As for his dream project? To build his “new colossus,” a large-scale monument the size of the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore. HAMPTONS BOUND
While Berlin’s “unrealistic” artistic goals remain quite large this summer, he aims to make his circle smaller…that, along with getting in a good bonfire on the beach.
“When I’m ready to greet the world, I always go to 75 Main in Southampton, which I consider the center of the universe,” Berlin divulges. “The Lobster Grille Inn is also a good spot. Good food. Sometimes, it’s a real pleasure to be in a place where you don’t know anybody.”
It’s hard to believe that Summer solstice is upon us. My blog 28 Days of Awesome: Find Your Local Adventure inspired a movement within myself. Though the initial blog was 28 unique things in 28 days I didn’t want to stop there. Why not try new things each season? Hell, I’m making it a blog series!
In order to make the most of 2017 I vowed to optimize each day as the seasons continue with small efforts to live life as an adventurous journey (not one we simple begrudgingly walk through). Spoiler alert: it works! I feel happier and healthier.
Here are some new things I partook in (and highly recommend you do the same):
Eating at New Restaurants, Attending Yearly Events & Trying New Free Offers From A Variety Places:
– The Cuban, Garden City, L.I.- Feel, and taste, like you’re in Little Havana. From Cuban cuisine to Latin music, this restaurant transports you on the vacation you’ve been dying to take.
– Salinas, Meatpacking District, N.Y.C.- Bienvenido a España in this beautifully decorated restaurant next door to the Highline Hotel. In the true Spanish tapas style, plates are pequeña but a variety for sharing to get a taste of everything.
– Ayhan’s Shish Kebab, Port Washington, L.I.- The original of the chain where I drank a pomegranate martini, making me feel like I was one of the Gods.
– Left Coast Kitchen, Merrick, L.I.- I bow down to the person that created this Temple Burger. A spin on the classic bagel, lox & cream cheese deluxe, but replace the bagel with latkes and add some eggs. You read that right.
– La Fondita, Amagansett, L.I.- Under the same ownership as restaurants Nick & Toni’s, Rowdy Hall and Townline BBQ, this off-the-road location looks understated but its large personality matches the enormous flavor.
– Hampton Coffee Company, Hamptons, L.I.- I’ve never actually stopped at a brick & motor location for this coffee. Off route 27, it was an ideal pick me up.
– Kobrick Coffee, Meatpacking, N.Y.C.- In an intimate and swanky, yet surprisingly casual location, that serves an Affogato worth salivating over!
– Starbucks , All Over- I came, I bought and I loved the newly released Toasted Coconut Cold Brew.
– Douglas & James Ice Cream, Port Washington, L.I.- A quaint little parlor right on the water with a decor that makes you want to try it all!
– Carvel’s Free Cone Day, (once a year) All Over- I was the only adult on line, April 27th, but no way was I missing out! Mark your calendar for yours.
– Taste of Tuckahoe, Southampton, L.I.- This annual benefit supports local schools and provides delicious tastes from dozens of local fare!
As a self-proclaimed ‘fitness foodie’ my motto is that if you want to eat hard you have to work out even harder. As evident of the above, I had some hard work ahead of me. Listed below are some of the unique ways to keep fit:
– Glow Golf, Garden City, L.I.- It can still get chilly in Spring, so some outdoor activities remain on the back burner (like mini golf). But mention indoor, GLOW IN THE DARK mini golf and no questions needed.
– Aerial Silks, Riverhead, L.I.- I took an aerial fitness class in a hammock (what they use for aerial yoga) and became hooked. A slightly different, and more difficult, experience was the dual hanging silks! Full review here.
– Volleyball, All Over- I may be an athlete by nature but I had never played competitive beach volleyball before now. Turns out, while I certainly need practice, I’m not half bad (for a real review ask my teammates).
– Box + Flow, N.Y.C.- This summer Ruschmeyer’s kicked off #WavesandWellness. Based in NYC, Box+Flow made their east end debut with a class combining boxing & yoga. This was the best way, potentially the only way, to eagerly get me on a yoga mat. Read my review in full.
– Cryotherapy, Water Mill, L.I. & N.Y.C.- Can you stand to be in a tube filled with nitrogen gas at -250 degrees Fahrenheit? How about for 3 minutes? For the health benefits it’s entirely worth it. Read more.
Explored some new places: Some things I just stumbled into, or decided to experience for myself. In omnia paratus!
– Private Artists Exhibit, East Hampton, L.I.- Guild Hall held its 79th Artists Member Exhibition and I was fortunate to attend the initial private showing.
– Baron’s Cove, Sag Harbor, L.I.- Sitting under heat lamps on the outside deck, sipping my last whiskey cocktail of the season, it was a pleasant reminder that winter had passed and Spring was blossoming.
– Long Beach Strip, Sag Harbor, L.I.- A different Long Beach, known as Foster Memorial. A beautiful strip on the bay side.
– Democrat Point, Robert Moses Beach, L.I.- I hit a few first with this one, including watching kitesurfers!
– Long Island Welcome Center, Dix Hills, L.I.- You’ve likely seen the obnoxious, blue I <3 New York advertisement signs on every major parkway. I stopped by the newly developed L.I. Welcome Center (eastbound on the L.I.E.). With all local produce it supports the entire community and gives back to those who make this island great.
– Montauk Salt Cave, Huntington, L.I.- I couldn’t make it to Montauk but I did get to experience my first salt cave at their secondary location in Huntington. Inhale salty benefits, exhale stress.
On a more personal note, I made a conscious effort to further my career: I’ve worked hard on building my ‘Nikki on the Daily‘ brand for years. Recently, by consciously making an effort to push harder, it seems things are finally falling into place. But I wouldn’t be where I am without some help.
– Started a Fitness Column, East End, L.I.- I’ve been writing for The Independent Newspaper for several years. Currently I am perma-freelance reporting on several topics. A topic I aimed to be fluent in is fitness & have earned the weekly IndyFit column.
– Modeled LIVE on TV, N.Y.C.- When I was in the studio audience of The Wendy Williams Show, back during my 28 Days of Awesome, I was asked to potentially return for a model segment. Thanks to help of style expert, Chassie Post, I modeled in a live TV segment called Look for Less.
– Hampton’s Modeling Debut, Southampton, L.I.- The wonderful Gabby Wild and Southampton Adoption Center invited me to walk in their ethical fashion show/benefit, Catwalk for Canines. I took a step in the right direction in the gorgeous fashion lines of Marita Wrong and Pelush, with a pup up for adoption.
– Bethpage Polo at the Park,L.I.- This season, as a manager to the VIP tent on the polo grounds, I am both humbled and proud to be able to contribute to a business community I strongly believe in. Come join us on Sundays.
From my adventuress to yours, may every moment be more awesome than the last!
The art world of NYC has changed. No longer are the days of conservative pieces being displayed on the Upper East Side or Midtown but rather contemporary statements now seen in Chelsea and, daringly enough, Brooklyn.
If you’ve been strolling down the streets of lower Manhattan chances are pretty likely that you’ve seen the hip skeleton wall art popping up from place to place. Thick brush strokes, colorful touches, they might even look like people you’ve seen before. But who?
These colorful paintings inspired me. I wanted to look like them, none in particular, so this past Halloween I decided to dress up as Dia de Muertos. I felt ironically alive and fashionable for being painted as a dead skeleton. Walking in the Village Halloween Parade I noticed an entire float dedicated to the theme. Were they all trying to replicate the wall art that I saw? Skeletal outlines with hints of color, dancing in their disguises as though tomorrow would never come. Happiness.
Fast forward a few months to June and I’m standing in ACA Galleries on W 20th street in Chelsea, the new art mecca, amid dozens of those exact paintings with other admirers. The artist is Bradley Theodore and he’s altering urban landscapes.
Known to paint the cities of L.A., N.Y.C., Paris amongst others, Bradley’s work also represents a shift in the way things are changing. He is a profound artist of this generation. Having gained significant notoriety through Instagram and ‘wall scouting’ I was instantly curious how the streets of New York, my city, inspired him. Without hesitation he proclaimed ‘the people.’
“In New York you can bump into anyone and be like ‘Hey how are you doin?’ and then you know them for years. New York has some great people.”
It’s hard to argue that, we do have quite the community although I’m not entirely sure any good conversation came from physically bumping into someone on the sidewalks in this city.
But that’s the essential beauty of N.Y., we’re different. We have a love hate relationship with everything around us. Expansive subway system but the fares keep going up. Culinary diversity but it’s $4 for a slice of pizza. Millions of apartments that are ridiculously overpriced. Insert Jimmy McMillan screaming ‘the rent is too damn high.’ Bradley seemed to agree about the pricing of rent, claiming that is what makes this city different than any other he’s painted in. Maybe that’s why he paints people in skeletal form, they’re all too broke to afford a proper meal.
But if you look hard enough you’ll start to recognize those familiar faces and they aren’t those of broke New Yorkers. Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour, Terry Richardson, Andy Warhol. The art depicts some of fashions biggest icons. Bradley is successfully contributing to a world where one would not exist without the other.
Karl Lagerfeld was once quoted as saying “doing collections, doing fashion is like a non-stop dialogue.” I can only assume this resonated with Bradley Theodore as I asked him one very important question. How does he want the viewer to feel when looking at his collection?
“Communication. It means two people, between people. That’s what life is about. Communication with the earth, with the ocean, with a fellow person.”
The word takes a deeper meaning when it’s binding his art to a specific location. All those wall murals I had mentioned above, which I’m sure are familiar to many, are in fact non-transferable. They’re made for specific people and when that person is no longer attached to their location Bradley will go paint over his art.
Veronica Campanelli, admirer of Bradley’s work, explains the irony she feels when looking at a painting.
“You see this color and think joy… and as you get closer and really look deeper into the image into the skeleton, you see something that might not necessarily depict the beauty you had originally thought you were looking at. Once you look beyond you see something deeper.”
But what if the artwork isn’t on a wall or something 2 dimensional, what if it’s on a woman’s body? One of Bradley’s models for his collaborative exhibit with Antoine Verglas, Angel Pai, described her experience as surreal.
“To be able to have my body as a canvas was an honor. Every one of us brought our own personality to our photographs to embody the color.” Standing in front of her favorite photograph of herself, “Bradley said to me, I see red, you’re fire. The entity I have in this one is very me.”
Casey Bergen, curator of the exhibit, has been following Bradley’s work for years. Upon hearing about the collaborative project with Antoine, Casey exclaimed that he “immediately knew this had the makings of a truly exciting exhibition.”
“I think it is safe to say that Bradley is a young artist with a bright future. In addition to being one of the most practical and charismatic artists I have had a chance to work with, Bradley has found his own distinct style of painting, which is often the hardest part of an artist’s development, his style and brand have become a recognizable element in the New York art scene (and beyond). We will have to watch and see what the future holds..but I’m betting we will see a lot more from him.”
The collaboration between Bradley and Antoine is an expository dialogue. Models wearing nothing but their personalities, covered in paint, true to life the symbiosis between art and fashion.
Raw Beauty is open now until July 31st at ACA Galleries at 529 W 20th Street